BI’s Next Frontier: Marketing

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by Morten Middelfart

One of the coolest things about Business Intelligence and Analytics software is that it has applications throughout an organization. Finance can use it, sales can use it, support can use it, engineering can use it…everybody can use it. But there’s one department that’s been a holdout and hasn’t yet found the value in taking data and turning it into information: marketing.

This is a department of people devoted to discovering what it is that makes customers and prospects tick, and they haven’t yet realized that there’s tons of information at their disposal that answers that very question. The challenge has been that the information about customer preferences generally resides in data outside the organization. It’s in surveys, focus groups, social media, Google trends, and all of it is data you don’t control.

From a technological perspective, external data sources present a challenge to traditional data warehousing solutions. Those products take data from the internal databases, run a transformation process, and then load it into the analytics app. That process requires IT’s involvement, making it an unwieldy answer to the question of “how can marketing get involved with this BI thing”.

If you can eliminate IT from the process, suddenly marketing can play with all of those external data sources to try and get inside the minds of the people they’re targeting. In a field that’s increasingly metric-driven, the ability to find those behavior patterns among potential customers can save the marketing department a lot of time and energy. No more guessing where the customers are, no more trying out a whole bunch of messages to find the right one.

NoETL solutions can be marketing’s way to learn how BI can work for them. It’s a win-win. Marketing gets to experiment using data that’s never been available to them, and there’s information that backs up the decisions that they make from reviewing the information.

For years, business intelligence has been rooted in the ERP solutions that feed BI platforms their data. Once that’s configured, you’ve got an in-depth look at your customers. The next logical question is, “how do I use this for prospects?” Google Trends is a useful data source for finding potential customers before they buy. And then, “what are my customers saying about our product after the sale?” Here, we pull in social media to learn what customers tell their friends and colleagues about us.

It’s all out there. Marketing just has to have the right tool kit and the right mindset to go out and find it.

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